Dallas Cowboys top offseason priority is David Irving

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback Sean Mannion
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - AUGUST 13: Quarterback Sean Mannion /

The Dallas Cowboys will have a list of personnel decisions to make once the 2017 season is complete, but none are bigger than securing David Irving long term.

The Dallas Cowboys went three seasons without a dominant pass-rusher following the economically-driven release of franchise sack-leader DeMarcus Ware following the 2013 season.

Then defensive tackle David Irving was literally stolen from the Kansas City Chiefs during a mess of a 2015 season. Securing the 6’7” monster in the middle was probably the only bright spot during a season in which Dallas plummeted to a 4-12 record while spending almost the entire year juggling backup quarterbacks in the absence of Tony Romo.

There’s no greater priority during the offseason than making sure that Irving is secured for at least one more season, which should set the stage for a long-term commitment as early as next season. As a restricted free agent once this season ends, the Cowboys have some leverage to work with in terms of keeping Irving around, but that will only be temporary.

Now, you might be thinking that keeping defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence around is a bigger priority, and it’s tough for me to disagree with that idea. Lawrence is, after all, an unrestricted free agent who’s set to not only hit the open market at season’s end, but he’ll be one of the most visible targets for the entire league.

No, he won’t take a hometown discount to stay with the Cowboys and it’s likely that the Cowboys slap the franchise tag on Lawrence in order to keep him around for at leaast one more year while the organization evaluates their 2014 second-round pick a little further.

I just happen to think that Irving is slightly better at his position than Lawrence is at his. Irving is a year younger and before his concussion suffered against the Washington Redskins on Week 13, there was nothing significant regarding injuries that make the long-term future seem risky.

I can’t say the same regarding Lawrence, however. That back is a major concern and this could actually cloud his free-agent status in the coming offseason.

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But there’s just nothing to wait for regarding Irving. Despite his up-in-the-air status for the remainder of this season, Irving can still be expected to play for at least 6-7 more years in the Dallas defensive line rotation – unless there’s something we don’t know about that concussion.

There’s no greater matchup problem for opposing offensive lines than Irving, period. He’s able to play multiple positions and he active in so many ways it’s ridiculous.

While Irving’s sack total might not jump out at you, it’s important to remember that Irving’s arrow is still pointing upwards as he’ll be a fourth-year veteran next season. It’s highly realistic that Irving can be dominant force on the defensive line in the coming years and he’s always going to have that height and wingspan.

Can we say with reasonable certainty that Lawrence is even in the NFL in five years?

No one can say for sure, but this much is clear: Lawrence is a really good football player who might see his best days still to come, either in Dallas or elsewhere.

But David Irving is a player that falls into the special category and those guys don’t grow on trees. Irving is a player that you build a dominant defensive line around and there’s some intriguing possibilities in the 2018 NFL Draft that could add serious weapons for 2019.

In today’s NFL it’s most unfortunate that the game comes down to salaries and cap space as often as it does. The league really blew it’s feet off when it honestly felt that allowing free agency and the salary cap to coexist was a good idea.

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But this is where we are and it’s also where we’re likely to stay for the foreseeable future. As continuity is no longer a part of the NFL, you have to lock up the gold whenever you find some and Irving is one precious metal that can’t be given away.